Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Girl faces residency fight after heart operation in Dubai

Surgeons repair double hole in the heart of baby Eshal thanks to Al Jalila Foundation

Nida Qamar-Hayat holds her daughter Eshal, 2, who needs urgent heart surgery. Pawan Singh / The National 
Nida Qamar-Hayat holds her daughter Eshal, 2, who needs urgent heart surgery. Pawan Singh / The National 

Life could not have had a more testing start for young Eshal Qamar-Hayat, who is recovering from lifesaving heart surgery in Dubai.

Just weeks short of her second birthday, the child born with two holes in her heart is about to begin a second fight for a life.

Her mother, Nida, from Karachi, was unaware of the peril her daughter was in when she took her in for a routine vaccination with her family doctor.

That doctor noticed a heart problem, and referred her for further tests.

Without health insurance and no official residency status after being abandoned by her father, who had lost his job, Eshal was running out of time.

When a family friend came across Al Jalila Foundation and its Farah programme, which provides aid for paediatric patients in need, the girl was given that second chance.

My daughter is a baby, yet she is illegally living here.

Nida Qamar-Hayat

A successful heart operation will give Eshal the chance to live a normal life, although she faces regular check-ups and long-term medication.

Her mother is attempting to register her daughter as a UAE resident, through the court, so she can have a more permanent home.

“I had no way of paying for an operation,” said Ms Qamar-Hayat, 30, a former logistics secretary.

“She had no health card, visa or insurance care because my husband had no documents for her and we are no longer living together.

“He took no responsibility after her birth. We were in an impossible position.

“My daughter is a baby, yet she is illegally living here.”

Eshal was born with a ventricular septal defect, a congenital problem causing holes in the upper and lower chambers of her heart.

She underwent life-saving open-heart surgery when she was just 15 months old.

The family must cover the costs of her ongoing screening and medication of about Dh2,000 every three months.

Eshal and Ms Qamar-Hayat live with her parents in Karama and are completely reliant on their support for survival.

She is now filing for divorce from Eshal’s father, and hopes to then secure residency for her daughter.

“It has been two years, so we will have big fines,” she said.

“It is not my fault and I don’t know how to pay them. I used to be independent and a working woman, but I left my job to have a baby.

“My parents are helping, but I do not want to depend on them.

“This treatment is now my priority in life.”

Farah, the Arabic word for happiness, is Al Jalila Foundation’s paediatric program that provides life-saving treatment to patients in the Emirates.

The foundation works directly with healthcare partners on treatment plans that cater to patients’ needs.

Since 2013, Al Jalila Foundation has invested Dh44 million to provide care to 600 patients in the UAE.

It has helped 290 children suffering from heart disease, cancer, genetic disorders and other chronic illnesses.

Treatment costs vary from Dh20,000 to Dh500,000.

Lakduli Pradeep, 9, is another child to benefit from the foundation.

The Sri Lankan girl has a form of childhood rheumatism that leaves her weak, often with a rash and painful, inflamed muscles.

The Farah programme funded Dh200,000 of treatment that has vastly improved her quality of life.

Her father, Nilantha Pradeep, 42, has been in Dubai for five years, and works in an office.

“The doctors have said my daughter is still not well enough to go to school, but she is much happier and her life is better, for sure,” he said.

“We have a private tutor to educate her from home so she will not fall behind in her studies.

“It is important she goes back to school soon to see her friends, and this treatment is helping her towards that.”

Patients can apply for treatment with the foundation by supplying a covering letter explaining the medical issue and financial hardship, with medical records, proof of income and ID documents.

“There can be no greater cause than to support and improve the health and well-being of children,” said Dr Raja Easa Al Gurg, chairperson of the A Jalila Foundation board of directors.

“Through our healthcare programs, Al Jalila Foundation sponsors some of the best medical treatment in the world and invests in vital research to eliminate illnesses in the future.

"Our partners and donors continue to inspire us with their generosity.

“Every day we witness the culture of giving that is embedded in the nation’s DNA instilled by the UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.”

For more information, visit Al Jalila Foundation.

Updated: May 21, 2019 09:52 AM

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